A group of hunters were sitting around the campfire after a hard day hunting. Eventually the conversation turned to their dogs and who had the smartest one.
The first hunter started the bragging by talking about his Irish Setter. “When I send him to the store to buy eggs, he knows me so well that he refuses to accept them unless they are fresh.”
Not to be outdone another hunter boasted, “That’s nothing compared to what my springer can do. Why, he knows when I need more cigars and goes to the store to buy them without asking and he will not accept any that are not my favorite brand, even when the clerk tries to confuse him with inferior cigars. And not only that, but he will not smoke any of them until he gets home and I offer him one.”
An older man sat listening intently, but saying nothing, as the others laid it on thick. Finally, one of the hunters turned to him and asked, “Have you ever heard about any dogs as smart as ours?”
The man thought for a moment and then responded, “Just one—my brother’s dog. I think he may be a little bit smarter than any of your dogs.”
The hunters were surprised by this answer and simultaneously asked, “How?”
“Well,” replied the man, “he runs the store where your dogs trade.”
This story reminds me of parents who one-up each other about their kids. The first parent may start the process by saying something like, “My three-year-old can throw a strike across the plate from fifteen feet!”
The second parent thinks, “Oh, yeah!” and responds, “My two-year-old can shoot five out of ten free throws on a four-foot basketball standard from ten feet!”
Not to be out done, the third brags that their four-year-old can spit into a tuna fish can ten feet away two out of three times.
And parents don’t only engage in sports related braggadocio. “My baby was potty trained at six months.” “My seven-year-old was invited to dance in the City’s annual Nutcracker production.” “My fifth grader was the lead singer in the school’s holiday play and the teacher told me it was the best performance by any student ever.”
All this reminds me of a Sunday dinner conversation we had after a church meeting when I was a young boy. It was an open forum meeting, and a man made his way to the podium and spent several minutes speaking in a boastful way about his children. Other parents, presumably not wanting to be outdone, followed suit.
At the dinner table that afternoon, Mom asked Dad why he never talked that way about his kids. Dad’s comment has remained with me ever since. He explained that he didn’t want to put anyone under extra pressure because of comparisons or expectations. Day in and day out he simply filled up our confidence by treating us in a way that let us know he respected us, recognized our unique talents, and was proud of how we were growing up and developing.
Of course we want our children to know that we are proud of them, but they are best served when we praise them for hard work and effort instead of particular accomplishments and they know that we unconditionally love them and support them as they learn and grow through life’s ups and downs.
Happy Failing Forward,
Calvert and Anne
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